Sunday, May 12, 2019

Books: Red Sox vs. Yankees, A New Way To Look At Baseball's Best Rivalry

Red Sox vs. Yankees: Hometown Experts Analyze, Debate, and Illuminate Baseball's Ultimate Rivalry
By Bill Nowlin and David Fischer
Sports Publishing Paperback; $16.99; available Tuesday, May 14

The intense rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox  is one of the greatest in sports, creating some of baseball's most memorable moments.
These legendary teams have battled for more than 115 years, playing each other over 2,000 times. While the teams battle on the field, the fans and cities take the rivalry just as seriously, constantly debating who has the better players, such as, Teddy Ballgame or the Great Bambino? Nomar or Jeter? Clemens or Clemens?

When you debate which team will reign supreme, you'll get obvious answers from a New Yorker, and the same goes for a Bostonian. But what happens when two men from opposite sides of the track sit down to discuss who is the best?

Red Sox vs. Yankees pairs baseball historians Bill Nowlin (Red Sox) and David Fischer (Yankees) to discuss who each team’s best position player was and which super team would win in a head-to-head series. Obviously, they won’t easily agree and there will be cheap shots and venom spewed back and forth. But in the end, we will have two teams: one of the greatest players and one of each squad’s best year.

Nowlin is a Red Sox fan from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who  has been a Sox fan through thick and thin, from Ted Williams to Mookie Betts. Fischer, from River Vale, New Jersey, is a Yankees fan since attending his first game at old Yankee Stadium in 1970.

Nowlin and Fischer write, "The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is the most storied in all of baseball, and arguably in all of sports. Maybe it began in 1904, when the pennant was decided on the final day of the season. Boston pretty much dominated the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. The rivalry took on an entirely different dimension when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee (a New Yorker at that) sold off baseball's biggest star, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees. It was only one of many sales that moved good players from Boston to New York, and the Yankees never looked back. They started winning...and kept on winning. And winning.
"The Yankees became the most successful franchise in baseball. By the year 2000, they'd won 26 World Series titles and produced countless Hall of Fame players, including legends such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. Playing in the same league and then the same division, the teams faced each other often. Geographic proximity helped stoke the rivalry. Allegiance to the teams divided neighbors, friends, and families. Red Sox fans blamed the Yankees for all their problems, and Yankees fans gloated in return.
"And the Red Sox did have a lot of problems. One could say that the Red Sox became a star-crossed band of lovable losers. They reached the World Series only four more times that century, losing Game Seven each time in dramatic fashion, to the endless frustration of their fans. They also lost two single-game playoffs - in 1948 to the Indians and 1978 to the Yankees. Red Sox fans were bitter, and often surly. But they just expected to lose, one way or another, and this kept on into the early twenty-first century, through 2003 - when they lost Game Seven of the American League Championship the Yankees.
"Things have changed dramatically in the past fifteen years. Today, when the two teams face each other, it is no longer a battle between cocky uber-victors and pessimistic perpetual losers. Any demons were exorcised thanks to Boston's playoff win (over the Yankees, arising from the depths of despair in 2004 to sweep the final four games of the ALCS and then the World Series. And then win three more World Series in the next fourteen years."

This is a very readable book, in that Nowlin chooses the best Boston player at each position, and 
Fischer does that with the Yankees, and they then respond to each other's decision. This proves that as much as fans supposedly hate another team, they know them just as well as their beloved one.

For example, Fischer chose Tony Lazzeri as the greatest Yankee second baseman, and he wrote why: "A trio of worthy options was considered at second base for the Yankees. Two are Hall of Famers - Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon - and Robinson Cano was on his way until a PED suspension put his candidacy into question. I decided to go with Lazzeri, even though (full dosclosure) Cano is one of my all-time favorite players to watch. Reliable keystoners Willie Randolph and Bobby Richardson also deserve praise, while Horace Clarke (the personification of the 1970s doldrums) does not.
"Over his 12 years with New York, from 1926 to 1937, Tony Lazzeri batted .293 with an OBP of .379 and a slugging percentage of .467 for an OPS of .847. He also finished in the top 15 for MVP voting five times, including a third-place finish in 1928. He hit .300 or better five times, including a career-high .354 in 1929. Lazzeri hit for respectable power for the era: 169 homers and 1.157 RBIs. He won five World Series rings with the Yankees and probably would have won at least one MVP Award if it weren't for Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig deservedly garnering all the accolades.
"Despite following legendary teammates in the batting order, Lazzeri produced when called upon. He drove in 100 runs or more seven times. In the greatest run-producing day in American League history, Lazzeri drove in a league-record 11 runs in a victory over the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park on May 24, 1936. The Yankees' second baseman became the first player to club two grand slams in one game. Lazzeri also hit a third homer and a triple. A day earlier, Lazzeri had three homers and four runs batted in during a doubleheader sweep, giving him an incredible six home runs and 15 RBIs in a three-game span."

Thanks to the help of Action! PC Baseball, we will have a simulation to find out which team would win in a head-to-head battle. Will the All-Star Yankees take the series? Will the Red Sox pummel the best the Bronx has to offer? There’s only one way to find out.

Red Sox vs. Yankees is one that baseball fans will treasure and a perfect Father's Day gift, especially if your dad taught you about America's pastime.

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